WASHINGTON: The remains of George H.W. Bush lay in state on Tuesday at the US Capitol amid a groundswell of tributes honouring the 41st US president.
Since Monday evening Americans have been quietly filing past the flag-draped coffin in the Capitol rotunda to pay their respects to Bush, who died on Friday aged 94 at his home in Houston.
His passing has led Americans to reflect on his life of duty and service to country as a leader of the so-called “Greatest Generation.”
Only the second president to see his son follow him to the Oval Office, the Republican stalwart is being honoured with four days of commemorations and services in Washington and in Texas, where he will be buried Thursday.
President Donald Trump is scheduled to attend a state funeral on Wednesday at Washington National Cathedral — the first presidential funeral since Gerald Ford died in 2006.
Late Monday, after Bush relatives and dignitaries had gone, the president was driven from the White House up to Capitol Hill.
With first lady Melania at his side, Trump saluted, and they stood at Bush’s casket for about a minute. They exited the rotunda with little fanfare. Bush never warmed to Trump, and he had let it be known that he did not vote for him in 2016. Trump himself has criticised the elder Bush on the campaign trail.
But on Monday, Trump wrote members of Congress to hail Bush as a man who “led a life that exemplified what is truly great about America”. “President Bush worked selflessly throughout his long life to bring about a world of justice and lasting peace,” he wrote.
The White House also extended an invitation to Bush’s family to stay at Blair House — the president’s guest house — while they are in Washington for events surrounding to his funeral.
Military pallbearers carried the flag-draped casket into the rotunda as a fiery sunset bathed Washington in a glow.
The sombre ceremony was attended by his son George W. Bush — the nation’s 43rd president — and other relatives, dignitaries and more than 100 members of the House and Senate.
Bush was transported aboard the presidential Boeing 747 — made available at Trump’s direction — from Houston to Joint Base Andrews, in Maryland.
In Houston, relatives including his presidential son stood with hands on their hearts as the casket was carried to the aircraft.
Bush is the 12th US president to lie in state in the rotunda. Just three months earlier, the honour was accorded to senator John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee who died of brain cancer.
Hundreds of members of the public began quietly filing in to the Capitol late Monday to pay their final respects.
Bush will be honoured at a state funeral service at the cathedral on Wednesday, which Trump has declared a national day of mourning.
Bill Clinton will be among the living US presidents to attend, along with dozens of foreign leaders including Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney said he would deliver one of several eulogies, at Bush’s request.
On Thursday, Bush will be interred at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library Center in College Station, Texas, next to his wife Barbara, who died in April, and their daughter Robin who died of leukemia at age three.
Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2018